Two Rolex Daytonas Owned by Paul Newman Are Headed to Auction

Both were gifted to the actor and inscribed, and they're expected to fetch more than $1 million each

Paul Newman shown wearing a Rolex reference 16520 “Zenith” Daytona, which is headed to auction in June 2023 courtesy of Sotheby’s
Paul Newman in 2007 at the Champ Car World Series Gran Premio Tecate wearing the Rolex "Zenith" Daytona.
Courtesy of Jonathan Ferrey, Getty

Paul Newman and Rolex Daytona watches are so inextricably linked that there’s a song written about the pair. One of the most expensive watches ever sold at auction was the actor’s own “Paul Newman” Daytona, a nickname given to a rare Rolex produced in the ‘60s and early ‘70s that he popularized, which in 2017 went for $17.75 million. Now, two other Paul Newman Rolex Daytonas are headed to auction.

On Tuesday, Sotheby’s announced it will auction off two Rolex Daytona watches belonging to Newman on June 9 at its Important Watches sale in New York City. This coincides with the auction house’s larger slate of events dedicated to the late actor and actress Joanne Woodward, his widow, which will include “a series of sales consisting of more than 300 individual items that the legendary actors assembled and enjoyed throughout their 50-year marriage, to be offered across dedicated live and online auctions this June.”

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The two Rolex Daytona models on offer here do not bear the distinct dial markings of the rare “Paul Newman” variants that have become so coveted, so don’t expect another sale in the $18 million range like when Newman’s own reference 6239 from 1968 was sold. But they each feature something unique: a personal connection to the watch-collecting icon, which will elevate their hammer prices beyond similar models without that provenance.

The two Paul Newman Rolex Daytona watches headed to auction at Sotheby's in June 2023
The reference 16520 “Zenith” Daytona (left) and reference 116519 Daytona.
Courtesy of Sotheby’s

Up for auction is a 1993 Rolex reference 16520 “Zenith” Daytona, which was gifted to 70-year-old Newman after he and his team won the GTS-1 class at the 1995 24 Hours of Daytona, an endurance car race; he was the oldest driver ever to win. On the caseback of the watch is the inscription: “Rolex at Daytona 24 Paul Newman Rolex Motorsports Man of the Year 1995.”

The second watch, a 2006 Rolex reference 116519 Daytona, also has an inscription: “Drive Very Slowly Joanne.” It was given to Newman by his wife, as was the case with both the $17.75 million Rolex Daytona sold in 2017 and a model that was auctioned in 2020 for $5.5 million. The inscriptions on those watches were “Drive Carefully Me” and “Drive Slowly Joanne,” respectively. It seems she got more worried over time about Newman’s continued passion for car racing. 

“Newman cemented his legacy with watch collectors through his influence on Rolex’s most sought after model, the Daytona,” Leigh Safar, Sotheby’s head of sale for Important Watches, Americas, said. “As Rolex celebrates 60 years of the Daytona this year, we are proud to share in that milestone and present two models worn and owned by the Hollywood legend, which narrates the everlasting love he shared with his wife, Joanne, and his deep passion for racing.”

The inscription "Drive Very Slowly Joanne" on the back of a Rolex Daytona gifted to Paul Newman by his wife Joanne Woodward
The inscription on the caseback of the 2006 reference 116519 Daytona given to Newman by his wife Joanne Woodward.
Courtesy of Sotheby’s

Despite different circumstances of ownership and different reference numbers and production years, both watches are estimated to sell between $500,000 and $1 million. To put that into perspective, Newman sold the “Zenith” Daytona at a charity auction in 1999 for $39,000, which was the highest-priced sale of the night (it is believed someone bought it to give back to him later on). 

The legend of Paul Newman and his Daytonas has grown so much in the ensuing years that watch experts expect both of these pieces to eclipse a million dollars when they hit the auction block in June.

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